Mar 3, 2021

The End and A Different Beginning....

June 20, 2020: Time flies.  Fast. I remember when I first adopted Trout. She was a tiny little fluffy faced ball of chocolate kisses.  I would walk her and wait patiently as she stopped to explore every blade of grass, to greet every bug, to offer a wag to every person who passed. Now we're twelve years on and I watch her sleep, her body pulsating with every breath, her legs twitching, and sometimes, running. Her head slightly moves as I adjust on the couch. She is vigilant to my every move and I to hers. These days, I don't jump out of bed at night when I hear her cough or stretch because I'm worried she'll eat the remote but instead, it is because I know her days are numbered. Each day that passes is another closer to the end. Closer to a time when I will walk alone. And I can't stand the thought of her taking it without me by her side.

I tell Trout to let go, but in my heart I hope she holds on forever. I kiss her head, smooth my hands down her snout and look into her eyes, now cloudy like an early winter day. I whisper, "I love you" because more than anything in this world, I do.  More than anything.

That is why I know I must let her go. The final act of my love for her is for me to just let her go. To kiss her that last goodbye and to send her off to the heavens, the rainbow bridge, beach, or wherever dogs wander off to for eternity. But then what?

Then I start a different life. Not better by any means. Just different. With different priorities and different dreams. 

                                                                March 3, 2021: 

I wrote that almost a year ago, and Trout, my lovely chocolate lab, my best friend, my baby, has now been gone since August 2020.  In the end, it wasn't old age but bone cancer that took her from me.  She held on to the bitter end.  Hot Doc (our vet) said I'd know when it was time...and she would tell me.  She would stop following me around...but she never did. Everywhere I went she'd trudge along, just longing to be by my side. People always ask, "When do you know it's time?" In fact, I asked that over over again. "You just do" is often a response. For me, I knew it was time when it hurt my heart more to know that she was likely suffering than it did to let her go. Don't make the mistake in thinking that means it was easy to let her go. It wasn't. It hasn't been. It still isn't. That last day haunts my memories. I've thought of it over and over, wondering if I didn't wait too long, or if I did it too soon. I just know that my personal pain and grief is much easier to bear than the thought of Trout in pain. 

So she's gone...and a few short months later I also lost her best friend, our adopted boy, BG, to bone cancer. It's a simple fact, big dogs get it. But oh, why mine and why so close together! BG helped me so much after Trout was gone. Helped me to realize that there was still beauty, and that hole in my heart would eventually heal. He took that hole and filled it with Giant Alaskan Malamute hair and slobbery kisses.

There's still a hole in my heart, and a certain emptiness that wasn't there before, but, I've filled that hole with other things to hide the numbness and help me move forward. I've rescued a couple Great Pyrenees who are the most adorable dogs. They make me laugh, smile, frown, and even make me angry. At times, they make me wonder why I bothered to do it all again.  I think the reason is, despite everything, I didn't want to give up on dogs. I wanted to make a difference, even if it's just in a few white fluffy dogs' lives...and I've done that already. So join me now as I move not on, but forward, past what was and toward what will is and will be. And love your pups. Hold them tight. Kiss them goodnight. And be the person your dog thinks you are.  

Nov 27, 2018

So I Moved...5 Reasons Neighborhoods Suck

home sweet tiny home
Newsflash: Living in the country is SO much better than living in the city. 

Now, I'm not just saying that because I'm anti-social and I hate people.  Really. Ok, maybe I AM. But, so far, my experience after moving back to my rental house has not been great. First and foremost, I downgraded from 50 acres in the country with my closest neighbor about 1/2 mile away to looking out my back window and seeing five houses within spitting distance. And I'm not even a good spitter. 

So, in less than a month I've come up with my very own list of 5 Reasons Neighborhoods Suck

5. You know what happens when you put a naturally paranoid gal in a house and surround her with neighbors, screaming kids, barking dogs and cats that prowl the night? Crazy happens. I've got surveillance cameras and trail cams hidden in various spots on my property.  I've got more chains around my RV, Quad and utility trailer than a prison work crew has. I've got guns stored away under tables, bedframes, and behind photographs. I'll be ready when trouble comes a-knockin.

Those damn thieves and killers are not getting away with my stuff.

4. Speaking of cats...I used to feed the feral cats at my place. It seemed innocent enough. I didn't like it, but it was my rural duty. Now I'm surrounded by cats of all colors, breeds, and gender.  And I'm not even being racist, homophobic, or critical when I say it sucks huge piles of cat pooh. When I walk out of my house in the morning it's like I've stepped into a world where people are the minority and cats are king. Cats are sitting in driveways, under cars, near street lights, watching my every move. I can't tell if they're interested in what I'm doing or they are just waiting for the right moment to pounce. Cats are the Devil's dogs, I tell you. 

5. I have no room for anything. Not inside, not outside. I never really appreciated the fact that I could have a 14-foot pool, 2 kayaks, a pontoon fishing boat, a golf net, room to ride the quad, storage for years of crap, enough room for a RV and three cars...until now. Now I barely have room for the pool, which is a priority, given the fact that my chocolate lab, Trout, will NEVER give me a moments rest unless she can swim at will this summer.  And, I've had to donate so much stuff to Goodwill, I think they should just do random drivebys and save me the gas money.  Oh, I could burn the stuff...but now I seem to be missing my burn pile area.  Thank you, city life. 

3.  I have to be social. My neighbors stop by. Like we're pals. You know how hard it was to become a hermit? Now I'm forced to socialize.  Someone actually left a loaf of bread on my doorstep the other day. Either they thought I needed the carbs or they mistook my house for the local misfit residence and figured with all the crap piled in the driveway I needed all the help I could get. 

2.  It's loud here. The dog and I hear everything. The mailman's coming....I know this when he's five doors down because suddenly Trout the Lab jumps up and starts barking like we're being invaded by Russia. Oh, the neighbor down the street just slammed his car door! Yeah! I hate to say it, but now I know why people are's not on purpose. It’s just that you hear absolutely everything that happens and it sounds like it's happening on your front door step, so naturally you look.

1. Neighbors suck. I have a 78-year-old neighbor behind my house who is lonely and sad. Her husband died and apparently, he was the alcohol monitor. She drinks and drinks. By the time I get home at 330 pm she's loaded and ready to scrap. The other day she yelled that I was a Nasty Bitch. Seriously.  Little ol' innocent me.  Ok, granted, it didn't help that I told her to leave me the F*ck alone and I did not want to talk to her every time I went outside. But in my defense, I should not have to talk to her EVERY TIME I walk outside and then spend 30 minutes justifying why I'm not a terrible person because she thinks I stole my sister's dog and kicked my sister out of my rental. I mean, geez, isn't it bad enough I actually have to RAKE leaves now because I'm surrounded by fences and the wind can't adequately do its job? And guess what? There's so much stuff that needs done around this house, it's like I'm living in a home with a slum landlord.  Well, crap. I've apparently got work to do. 

Sep 18, 2018

Springfield, MO Day 4, Pappy's Place September 17, 2018

Pappy's Place BBQ was recommended to me by my hosts at the B&B so before I left town I stopped by to see if the fuss had any merit.

Pappy's is a tiny little bar that sells BBQ. It's apparently well known for it's pulled pork sandwich, so I ordered that from a man behind the bar that turned out to be friendly despite his initial look up and down of me. (I'm pretty sure in his mind he was asking what the heck I was doing there and why the hell I needed any more food since I've gained about 50# since being in Missouri. Shut up.)

Food came out fast. Lightening fast. So fast it made me think their microwave must have already been loaded. While sitting at the bar, I opened the wrapper to find a pale pulled pork sandwich that was already sporting a soggy bun.  No way this was gonna make it into my belly.  I took a few finger pinches of it to taste and just as I imagined, it wasn't all that great.

I'm not sure what meat this is...could be coon. 

I paid the man, grabbed a jar of BBQ sauce to go (just in case), and headed to my car...where I ate some more of my Buckingham's BBQ.  I'm normally a "small, out of the way, dive joint" kinda gal, but this place should be reserved for drinking mixed drinks from a dirty glass when you've just been dumped by the love of your life or when your dog gets ran over by the UPS man. It happens.

Not a fan.

Springfield, MO Day 4: Buckingham BBQ September 17, 2018

Why, yes, that is my finger in the shot. 
After leaving the non-haunted Bed and Breakfast, I couldn't really figure out what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. It's the downfall of not having an anal retentive friend traveling with me. Normally, when Jen is with me, we have a huge spreadsheet with places, addresses, tips, and times the places are open. When I travel alone, I have a general idea of the direction I want to go...and I go. In this case, that was an issue.  But, my redneck roots took over and I thought, as long as I was in the national headquarters of Bass Pro Shops, I may a well visit them. So shopping I went.

After I spent money on crap I didn't need but that looked cool, I was in the parking lot trying to figure out what next when I looked up and saw the most beautiful site. Across the street was a BBQ joint! It was like the heavens opened up and the clouds parted...and I knew, just knew, it was fate. From where I was, I couldn't really tel much about the place...I wasn't too fond of the huge digital sign in front that grabbed my attention away from the important things...but luckily my brain was able to focus on the big BAR-B-Q words and I headed that direction. Turns out, it was the best move I'd made thus far in Missouri.

I had found Buckingham Smokehouse BBQ. Buckingham's in Springfield, MO is a branch of 5 BBQ restaurants in Springfield, Nixa, and Ozarks, MO. I'm a pretty flexible BBQ eater, so typically when I'm trying out a new place, I'll walk in and just ask them to serve me something they are famous for. In this case, I was greeted by a tall dude with such a peppy attitude, I seriously wanted to just hang out all day. I didn't get his name...but when he asked me where I was from (no idea how he knew I wasn't from MO), I told him I was from Oregon. His response was "We get people from all over but never as far as Oregon!" and he handed me a plate of burnt ends to try with some mustard BBQ sauce and some horseradish BBQ sauce. I have to admit, I've never been a fan of mustard or horsey sauce, but this stuff had me almost licking the plate.

Burnt ends and that special sauce...yummy 
We got to chatting and I told him I was in town to judge the American Royal...and he started telling the cooks and everyone that I was a BBQ judge and then the dude brings me a free rib, too! It was the nicest anyone has ever been to me.  Maybe I need to get out more, but seriously, this fellow was awesome. And the rib was perfection, just as the burn ends were. I went ahead and ordered burnt ends and two sides...despite the fact that I was planning on stopping for more BBQ soon...and I have no regrets whatsoever. The baked beans were so good...and the corn was perfection as well. In Oregon, we don't put cheese on our corn, so at first, I was a little hesitant but guess what? Cheese DOES make everything better.

Turns out, Buckingham BBQ did a stint on the Travel Channel for a show back in 2015, and it's still the talk of the place and on their billboard outside..but they have reason to be proud. This BBQ is top notch. Its so good I'm taking some burnt ends home to Oregon so I can enjoy Buckingham BBQ my pals at home, good luck prying any of this out of my fingers.

While at Buckingham, I ended up chatting briefly with some other people who were visiting the place for the first time.  Our conversation basically included the phrases, "This is so good," "OMG, this is awesome" and "First time here too?" They were gracious enough to let me take their photo and post it here. I told them it was for my blog, I neglected to mention I'm not a famous blogger.

Happy Customers

Remember I told you about the very friendly, enthusiastic, awesome dude at the counter? He posed for me too!  He's totally smiling, can you see it???

The nicest person in ANY BBQ joint I've been to thus far! 

If you're around Springfield, MO, or any of the other locations, do yourself a huge favor and stop by. Everyone in this state is thrilled with burnt's ALL about the burnt ends...and this place did them the very best.

American Royal - KC, MO - Day 3 . September 16, 2018

KC Speedway Day 2
Didn't rush to the speedway today because yesterday was too flipping hot. I stopped along the way at another McDonalds...and I'm not sure that employees at the MickyD's here in KC understand the meaning of FAST food...then I drove around the speedway about three times trying to find the entrance. By the time I got to the judge's sign in, I was a hot mess, thinking I was too late to judge. Luckily for me, I found my table and was greeted by the most fantastic Table Captain to ever walk the earth.

I'd love to be able to show you photos of the BBQ we judged. Or to share with you a bit of the twenty minute monologue we had to listen to prior to judging...or to recite to you the BBQ judge's which as a judge you literally stand up and raise your right arm and promise and swear to judge the BBQ to the best of your ability subjectively and objectively for truth, liberty, and justice (or something like that). But alas, those things are all forbidden by the BBQ Judges code of conduct and I'm pretty sure a violation results in death.

I will tell you that we judged turkey, chicken, sausage, brisket, pork tenderloin, pork in another form, and ribs. I am allowed to tell you that some of the food was excellent. I'm not supposed to tell you that some of it, mainly some sausage, was so bad that we deduced the contestants must have cooked it then injected it into the sausage casing....which resulted in something I hope I never see again. The texture and the taste was similar to canned dog food. Before you get all snarky and say, "Have you tried canned dog food?" The answer is YES. I wanted to see what Trout was actually eating...and that's also why she now gets homemade food or FreshPet (because in the event of a zombie apocalypse, I know I could stomach FreshPet if it came down to living or dying). 

On Sunday at the event the vendors were was rather quiet...and people were packing up by the time we were finished judging.  I didn't stay for the awards because I had an appointment three hours away to check in at a B&B. 

But, I must mention that on Saturday and Sunday I met some fantastic people. I hung out with a couple from Montana on Saturday who were some of the nicest people I've met thus far while judging BBQ, or even traveling for that matter. I also ended up sitting next to a fellow I had talked to briefly outside while we were waiting to get into the judging area...and he was also a great person. On Sunday, I met people from my table that were fun to talk to and who made the down time of judging much more entertaining. And yeah, they were pretty awesome too!  I seriously didn't encounter one asshat the entire time I was at the event...which is shocking because I'm literally an asshat magnet.

The thing about going to these events is that everyone is there because they love BBQ. It's an automatic bond that sometimes reaches past the event and into Facebook...and even when it doesn't, it's still very rewarding to hear people's stories and to glimpse into someone's life. Talking to people usually makes me appreciate what I have and where I've been. I'm lucky to be able to travel and judge BBQ, and I can more easily recognize how fantastic that is when I meet like-minded people. I'm typically a hermit, so when I'm forced to step out of my comfort zone and be with people, I'm always amazed at what happens.

Of course, the best thing about traveling to KC to judge BBQ is what comes next...three extra days in KC to explore, to eat BBQ, to meet people, and to see fantastic things I'd never see from my living room window.

So let the games begin. 

Thank you to American Royal BBQ for having another great event. And to all those I met, THANK YOU for being such great people!!! 

Sep 17, 2018

American Royal - KC, MO - Day 2 . September 15, 2018

The American Royal World Series of BBQ is a yearly event held in Kansas City, currently located at the Kansas City Speedway. The Royal is in it's 39th year and is an official Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) sanctioned event. As a KCBS judge, I get the honor of paying my airfare and other expenses to KC but get to taste all the bbq my stomach can stand during the competition when we are judging.

I'll give more details about how to become a judge in another blog...but until then, I'll keep rattling on about the American Royal.

The American Royal is the biggest bbq event in the world (according to their website)...and I can promise you the event was HUGE.

A Pano shot from the stands at KC Speedway..the event took up the entire infield.
There were so many people on the infield, it was like walking around the biggest bbq store in the world. The vast array of bbq's that contestants were cooking on was amazing. Every brand you can think of was represented. I took some photos of a few to show you the realm of possibilities.

I guess on Friday nights there is some stuff going starts...and from what I hear, there's a wee bit of drinking that may go on...(I'm hoping to confirm this next year, wink wink). On Saturday there is an Invitational competition, and only the best of the best participate in that event. Those teams are ones who have won a Grand Championship..and they not only participate in the invitational but also in the Open Meats competition on Sunday.  There is also a "Sides" competition that includes beans, veggies, potatoes, and desserts. Lucky is the judge who gets to evaluate ALL the events!

I was chosen to judge the Open Meats and Sides competition. I arrived early so I could walk around and check out the entire festival which includes music, food and bbq sauces for purchase, and a lot of free samples of bbq and sides. Guess what? It was hotter than Georgia asphalt so getting there early was a bad idea. By the time I walked from my air conditioned car, to the speedway entrance, down the bleachers, across the speedway, then across the grass and to the infield, I was sweating and in need of some seriously cold water and a chair. People everywhere were dripping sweat and taking it all in like champions...while I whimpered and begged for shade.  I'm sorry, but Oregon doesn't get that hot or humid. I'm a delicate flower. I found shade (right before I passed out)..straight from Salem, Oregon!

Best Damn BBQ sauce from Salem, OR.
I met up with Mike White and his wife who had a booth..and they kindly invited me to stand in the shade for a spell.  If you are in search of some awesome sauce, check out their website: Best Damn BBQ Sauce you won't be sorry. I found these guys at the Salem Wednesday market earlier this year and brought samples of their sauce back to my was a hit. Their Sweet Lady Love and Hot Damn That's Hot sauces are perfection in a bottle. Buy some.  Buy a lot!  They are champions. Literally.  Their Sweet Lady Love sauce took 1st place at the Royal once... That's impressive stuff.

Saturday's judging was for sides and desserts. The sides our table tried included a really bizarre mushroom sandwich thing (not my fav, I hate mushrooms); a "veggie" open faced sandwich with cheese, bacon, zucchini, and other veggies; cream cheese stuff jalapeƱos; and a green pepper stuffed with corn and zucchini.  In the sides competition, there is no real rule other than there can't be more than 7% meat in the dish. Obviously, that's pretty subjective.

After the first course, we tasted about six different type of baked beans followed by a round of potatoes...which included a lot of mashed potatoes and one potato salad..which was a rather disturbing color. I think sides would be a very difficult thing to make since not everyone likes all sides...and trying to be original can be difficult when there are over 200 entries.

Once we got to the dessert section our table was filled with anticipation for the judging to start...except one judge who declared he did not like cheesecake...what a fool.  (I kid, he was actually pretty cool and his wife liked cheesecake so it's all good).

I'm a cheesecake imagine my shock and awe when we got to judge a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake, a raspberry one, and a pumpkin one!  I was all giddy like a fat girl ijudging BBQ (Oh wait...snap. Must stop eating.).  Anyway, we also tasted some pumpkin shake/smoothie, some cake balls, and an adorable lemon/whip creamy thing that would have been fantastic if I liked lemon even a little bit.

Sad but true story here:  we are NOT allowed to take any photos while judging. In fact, our phones have to be tucked away completely...but we are allowed to take home what we don't the picture here is a fantastic piece of chocolate peanut butter cheesecake  and raspberry cheesecake after they've been smashed into a ziploc bag, pushed into an ice chest, thrown into the back of a car, and then driven 20 miles in 90 degree heat with what felt like a wall of humidity.  I'd say it still looks delish given what it's been through.

After all that food, I drove myself back to the hotel, carried my smashed cheesecake to my room, flopped on my bed and didn't move for 12 hours (except to reach over and take another bite of cheesecake).

It's a totally rough volunteer gig.  It really is.  

Springfield, MO - Day 3 . AFTER the Royal Haunted B & B September 16, 2018

Rushed out of the Kansas City Speedway/American Royal parking lot and drove three hours to stay the night in a "haunted" B & B called Walnut Street Inn that sits in downtown Springfield, MO. If any of you have read this blog before, you know my friend Jennifer and I take a haunted tour most Halloween' I thought in order to get in the spirit, I may as well partake upon a haunted night's stay here in Missouri.

Rosen Room

The Walnut Street Inn is a quaint little place that was built in mid 1890. The current owners don't mention anything about hauntings on their website and any reports of ghosts is clearly missing from the B&B's guest logs. There are some torn out pages in the log, adding to the mystery of the place...but alas, in all the photos I took, I didn't see one orb.  So either the ghosts that are there are quiet, or the place is not dusty at all.  You be the judge.

Rosen Room near the door

Bathroom in the Rosen Room

What I can tell you about the place is that it's incredibly clean and has a lot of original aspects still in place. There are three rooms on the 2nd floor, where the Rosen Room is located. Near the back is a steep set of stairs that lead to a back door that guests use after hours.

Siting Room on the 2nd Floor
There's a lovely sitting room on the second floor that all the rooms open up to...and it's clean and cozy.  No really my cup of tea, as I'm totally not into "house" history as much as I'm into serial killers and graveyard history...but my first thought upon seeing the Rosen Room and the decor of the house was that my friend Jennifer's mom would LOVE the place.

The rumor of a haunting was apparently started when someone was staying in the Rosen Room and they saw a woman sitting at a desk who was dressed in Victorian clothing.  The guest told the woman it was his room and she replied it was hers...then she disappeared. Staff reportedly have seen a woman in Victorian dress as well...but it's all hush hush and since it was, I didn't mention it to the friendly hosts so I got no first hand knowledge.  I'm annoying enough without asking about ghosts and murders everywhere I go.

Haunted or NOT? The bottom line is this: you know when you step into a room and it gives you chills...or you feel like someone is watching you...and the hair on the back of your neck stands up?  I would have loved to feel any of that after driving three hours from Kansas City to spend the night in the Rosen Room. Instead I heard the creak of the stairs as we climbed to the second floor...the product of original floors in a 1890's home. I heard the drip of water in the bathroom, the guests above me walking and talking, and street noises as people drove past the Inn. I'm not going to say it's not haunted...but I will freely admit if it is, the ghost are quite shy and are harmless.

In fact, I didn't get that creepy feeling in any part of the house. And you can bet I got up around 3 am and walked around, floors creaking under my feet, and also snapped some photos in my room at that time...but nothing. And trust me, as much as I pretend to be a ghost hunter, if I felt even a little uneasy in the place, I would have high-tailed it to my car and slept in the back seat like a scared little girl who's just saw her parents having sex. 

The End and A Different Beginning....

June 20, 2020: Time flies.  Fast. I remember when I first adopted Trout. She was a tiny little fluffy faced ball of chocolate kisses.  I wou...